9 Approaches to assessing Computing and ICT–#7: An Iterative Approach

The DfE recently announced the winners of its Assessment Innovation Fund: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/schools-win-funds-to-develop-and-share-new-ways-of-assessing-pupils

The purpose of the fund was as follows:

By collecting and promoting examples of innovative approaches to assessment, we want to give schools ideas and options as they upgrade their systems in response to the removal of levels.

We are therefore asking schools and organisations to present their approaches to the Department: where needed, we can allocate funding (of up to £10,000 per unique application) to help create a simple, easy-to-use package for others schools to transfer and use in their own setting.

Each package will then be made freely available for other schools to access, download and use.

(See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/268361/Assessment_Innovation_Fund_launch_doc.pdf )

Over the next week or so I will report on the winners and the descriptions of their approach. These descriptions are more like thumbnail sketches at the moment. I have used them to suggest ways in which they might be adapted for use in assessing ICT and Computing. I hope you find these suggestions useful, or at least a good starting point for your own further work.

In each case I have kept the text of the DfE’s announcement, and then added my thoughts under the heading “Applying this to Computing and ICT”.

Today: An iterative approach

Sirius Academy, Hull, Yorkshire (secondary)

The Sirius design and technology assessment system encourages the development of creativity, innovation, practical skills and student progress within the new design and technology curriculum. The system caters for preparing students for the range of options available within the subject whilst keeping a balanced focus on assessment of both the rigorous academic and practical abilities of students. The school is clear to pupils that by taking risks and working through many iterative cycles in various areas, their progress will not always be linear. The school has had positive feedback from pupils. They feel that it allows for a smooth transition between assessment in design and technology up to the end of key stage 3 to key stage 4 and beyond.

Applying this to Computing and ICT

This is a wonderful-sounding approach. However, it can be difficult to apply to an assessment scheme for Computing to some extent. The main reason is that assessment schemes tend, by their nature, to have built-in expectations about what constitutes achievement in a certain area. If a pupil is being truly innovative, you may not be able to properly make judgements unless you radically change your way of doing so.

You could have a two-tier approach. In order to assess what a pupil has done as far as being creative and innovative are concerned, you could hold interviews with them in which you ask them to explain what they have done and why. This would clearly be too time-consuming to be of practical use in a school, but you could adapt this approach. For example, you might interview small groups of pupils at a time – this can be done while the rest are getting on with their work. Or you could ask each pupil to make a 5 minute video explaining what they have done and why. Or you could have their work looked at by outside experts such as students on Computing courses.

The other tier is to have some straightforward skills tests/assessments to ensure that pupils have mastered the basics and are not just up in the clouds. You might think that would not be possible, but I have heard innovative musicians fall down trying to play a simple tune like “Happy Birthday”!

The idea of an iterative approach is a good one. Pupils acquire and master skills in layers, not all in one go.

Information from the DfE and Ofsted has been used in accordance with the terms of the Open Government Licence http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/2/

To read the first post in this series, please go to 9 Approaches to assessing Computing and ICT–#1: Skills Passport. To gain access to the whole series in one document, just sign up for Digital Education.

cross-posted at www.ictineducation.org

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant with over 35 years of experience in education. He publishes the ICT in Education website and the newsletter “Digital Education."